Friday, May 8, 2009

Too Much of A Good Thing? Keeping Invasive Perennial Plants in Check

There are many advantages to gardening perennial plants. For example, perennial plants are often much easier to care for and propagate than annual plants. But this advantage can often have an unintended disadvantage, when certain perennial plants begin to overtake your garden, yard, and perhaps your neighbor's yard as well. Many a gardener has had their garden overrun by mint and other rambunctious perennials, but there are ways to keep invasive perennial plant species in check.

Besides mint, some other very common invasive perennial plants gardeners should keep an eye on include
Bamboo (Arundinaria), Garlic Chives (Allium tuberosum), Borage (Borago), Bee Balm (Monarda), Perennial Sunflowers (Helianthus), Freesia, Evening Primrose (Oenothera) and Tansy (Tanacetum). This is not a comprehensive list, however, and you should always check when adding a new perennial plant specimen to your garden as to whether its growth habits is invasive or not for your area.

Not all of these plants are invasive in all regions, either, since the success of many perennial plants is determined by regional factors. Plants that are not hardy, will not be invasive in cold zones, while those that need winter dormancy do not usually pose a threat in fair weather regions.

If there is an invasive perennial plant for your region that you do want to grow in your garden, there are ways to help keep the species in check.
  • Consider planting the invasive perennial plant in a large container set in the ground. The container will keep the roots from spreading into nearby garden patches, thus restraining the overall growth of the plant. This a method that is particularly useful for gardening perennial plants like mint - provided you also keep a watch on any runners the plant may send out that reach beyond the confines of the container, and you also make sure the drainage holes are not so large that the roots can grow through them.

  • For perennial plants that spread through seeds, removing seed heads when they are forming is probably the best way to keep these plants in check, although for those that propagate only through seeds this will also disrupt their perennial habit and you may need to replant the next year.

  • Regular plant dividing and the weeding out of invasive seedlings are another way to keep your invasive perennial plants in check, and it will help keep your perennial plants healthier and more productive as well.

  • Finally, check with your local plant supplier to see if non-invasive varieties of the species are also available. Often there will have been varieties developed specifically to be less invasive in growing habit.
Hopefully these tips will help you be able to enjoy your favorite perennial plants that also have invasive growth habits.